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Where to start? :: Finding your World War One ancestors

Burial and Memorial

  1. The Roll of Honour is a list of Australians who died during war service. In regards to World War One, you will find a person’s Roll of Honour entry will give you information about where and how they died, where they are buried, and in most cases, a digitised form filled out by the family containing information about their life.
  2. Through the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission you can search for specific burial or memorial details of Commonwealth servicemen and women. The CWGC website even provides cemetery maps where possible so that you can identify individual grave plots.
  3. The War Graves Photographic Project is an online archive of photographs of Commonwealth war graves and memorials. Using this resource you can find an image of a person’s headstone or the memorial on which their name appears.
Image courtesy of State Records South Australia
The cover boy of issue 28 :: Victor Walter Sinnett, ID GRG26/5/4/273. Image courtesy of State Records South Australia. Click image for link.

Contextual Information

  1. If you know what units an individual served in, you can find good basic information about the history of most Australian World War One units on the Australian War Memorial’s website. Their unit histories will provide you with information such as where in the world that unit (and therefore its members) served, what battles they were involved in and any honours and awards.
  2. Once you have accessed a person’s service record, and you know what units they served with, you can cross reference the service record with the unit’s war diaries for more information about where the unit was and what they were doing on any given day. Remember that individuals don’t tend to be mentioned unless they are officers, however these records will provide you with an excellent amount of contextual information.
  3. If you are really keen – you can cross reference coordinates found in the unit diaries with McMaster University’s collection of digitised Commonwealth World War One maps and aerial photographs. This collection is restricted to the Western Front, but the photographs and maps really allow you to visualise the landscape of a particular battlefield.
  4. The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 is available in its entirety online. Available in PDF format, you can word search this comprehensive publication for mentions of individuals, units, battles or whatever your interest may be.

Happy researching!


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